Water pollution is one of the most serious side effects of fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale. Extracting the gas requires spraying water and a cocktail of toxic chemicals into shale using extremely high pressure thus polluting ground water and creating left over sludge that can find its way into local drinking water. But even after a recent innovation called the “Smart Sponge” has come onto the scene to clean up the fracking mess, how much will it solve in the long run?
There are two overall solutions to reducing water pollution as a result of fracking. One: Require regulation of fracking to protect the human right to clean water and ensure the safety of local residents for the long term. Two: Invent stopgap technologies that make it safer to frack.
Environmental technology company Abtech’s Smart Sponge falls into the solution #2 category. The device can clean up fracking waste water instantaneously by absorbing only toxins and oils, leaving the water almost pollutant-free. The Smart Sponge can soak up three pounds of oil for every pound of sponge, and can then be used as fuel.
While this innovation can make the environment cleaner in the short term, it only facilitates further planet ruining. Now energy companies can re-use fuel to speed up fracking, a process that will continue requiring huge amounts of water, disrupting natural habitats, and jeopardizing the safety of local communities.
We shouldn’t be patching up a bad idea; we should be creating a better idea all together. Our innovators and research grants need to focus on wind and solar energy instead of fracking. Take action against fracking now.
A little while ago I was sleeping on a train from New Delhi to the northern Indian city of Lucknow where I live. At 3am I was jolted awake by a sudden stop. I slowly came to learn that the country’s entire northern grid had failed, leaving us stuck on the tracks and millions more without power. Sitting on a train for 15 and a half hours while travelling alone gave me a lot of time to think about why things like this happen and what it means for the rest of the world.
Over the course of the next few days, over 600 million people lost power after the northern and eastern grids both collapsed. But what is really shocking is that one billion people in the world live without electricity every day. As about one-sixth of the world’s population languished in the dark and heat and people in 20 of the 28 Indian states were affected, some of the millions living in energy poverty were unaware that anything was even wrong. Some of those living in energy poverty, a term that refers to the situation of large numbers of people in the developing world who are adversely affected by their lack of access to basic energy services, seem to be so used to inconsistent electricity that yet another black out did not raise any red flags.
So what does that say about India’s power-hungry dash to the “top” and who is being left behind on the way? While the Indian government has rolled out several bold plans to bring energy to rural areas over the last few years, 56% of rural Indian households still lack electricity according to the International Energy Agency. That means that overall productivity for those not on the grid is much lower than it needs to be. Children cannot do their homework after dark, people cannot take advantage of technological advancements, hospitals cannot function properly…even at my office in the state capital the power goes out six or seven times daily and I lose hours every day waiting for the internet to come back on.
In the news we hear a lot about how India is on the cusp of greatness. But how can they get there when 65% of the total population is still in the dark? Now more than ever there needs to be a greater focus on renewable energy in India and worldwide. If anything, this grid failure should teach us that we need clean alternatives as the future of India’s power consumption becomes more complex.
All of the apocalyptic weather occurring right now across the US, and especially in the west where I’m from, prompted me to google “link between climate change and wildfires.” I found an article written about a year ago that lamented the lack of reporters who were connecting the dots between climate change and natural disasters. But that was a year ago. Has anything changed since then?
My first cursory Google News search yielded these top two results:
Seventy-eight related news articles would seem to be a promising sign that more linkages are being made compared to last year; though I must admit that I have not read all 78 articles to assess the quality of this reporting.
There are several immediate drivers of these fires that most media sources agree on: early spring snow melt, little moisture and higher summer temperatures. But because climate change accounts for broader weather pattern shifts instead of acting as the culprit in individual disaster cases, it is often not given the significance it requires. Rebecca Anderson of the Alliance for Climate Education writes, “Perhaps the current cocktail of all these factors will spark something more than another wildfire — maybe it can also spark a public conversation around the fire-climate change connection and let people see the forest for the trees.”
Ahren Stroming of Policymic might agree: “The ultimate crisis, though, has garnered much less attention. The destructive fires , the intense heat waves , the torrential storms, and the extended droughts should be the equivalent to waking up to a bucket of cold water dumped on your face. Global warming is staring us down, dripping bucket in hand.”
Indeed, it is easier to blame cigarette butts or lightning for our problems than to paint a bigger picture which might help to mobilize people to take action for the environment. Right now is the media’s perfect moment to seize our attention about the consequences of the human footprint on the environment. We can’t afford to wait another year for reporters to definitively make the link between natural disasters like wildfires and climate change.